He Saw It Was Good Bible Study – Session Four
Download the Participant’s Workbook for this study here
In the first video, MAF staff presenters Sheonagh and Matt will introduce the topic of ‘Prosperity’ and how MAF Uganda flights enable organisations to rebuild the lives of those affected by displacement in South Sudan due to conflict.
Read the following passage of Scripture. We will be returning to this later in the study.
In this next video, our presenters will walk you through the Sustainable Development goal of helping ‘Prosperity’ – our next ‘P’.
As you watch the video, you may wish to make notes. Jot down any facts and statistics that you will find helpful to ponder and pray over in the future.
Written by Simon Dunsmore
Prosperity, like love, is a relative term. Its meaning shifts across contexts. Here in our western, materialistic and predominantly secular culture we tend to associate prosperity with financial success and a lavish lifestyle.
However, for the majority world, economic insecurity and limited access to the fundamental necessities of life often result in lives lived out in desperate poverty. For these nations, the definition of prosperity can take on a new and entirely different meaning.
In this context, prosperity can simply mean surviving.
In 1954, American psychologist Abraham Maslow published his theory of the hierarchy of needs. His famous pyramid prioritises the elements that people require to thrive or prosper.
With the base of the pyramid describing basic physiological needs such as food, water and sleep, Maslow theorised that before anyone can progress to the higher steps of safety, love, esteem and — ultimately — self-realisation, the conditions of the level below must first be met.
There’s no doubt that, regardless of our culture, social status or economic situation, there are physical elements that human beings need to survive — with sustenance and shelter ranking high on the list. However, from a biblical standpoint, Maslow’s theory could be seen as sadly lacking.
Jesus, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, says, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). His words introduce an aspect that Maslow never considered.
As believers, it’s unlikely that we would disagree about the importance of spiritual sustenance, but how does this help the African farmer whose crops have failed and who is unable to feed his family, or the refugee who’s been driven from the security of her home due to conflict?
Surely, no matter how eloquently the Gospel message is delivered, the immediate concern for physical succour would appear to outweigh those of someone’s eternal soul.
So how should the missionary labouring overseas — or those at home providing support — present a God of love and compassion?
It is noteworthy that Jesus didn’t say that man doesn’t need bread to live, He simply stated that people have other needs that also require sustenance.
Regardless of our physical condition, geographical location or financial status, to truly prosper, people also need psychological and spiritual nourishment.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 shows that man is a tripartite being. We are more than flesh and blood. In fact, the Scriptures order our spirit and soul over that of our body or physical being. This is where Maslow’s secular theory begins to fail, having predominantly focused on the physical needs of human beings.
As Christians, however, we may be equally guilty in our approach. In our passion to see God’s Word preached to those who haven’t heard its life-transforming message, we can sometimes neglect the equally important element of practical support.
It is one thing for the seed of the Gospel to be sown. However, for it to grow and bear fruit, the whole person must be nourished, fed and cared for. If we are to truly see our neighbour prosper and thrive, mission must be holistic.
Holistic or ‘integral’ mission is a term indicating that, when it comes to Christian mission, God is concerned with the whole person, and the whole community. His care encompasses body, soul and spirit.
If Christians are to reveal God’s heart for the nations, then we cannot just concentrate on one aspect.
- What does it mean to ‘prosper’?
- How might the interpretation of prosperity differ within a developing world context?
- What should mission look like within the context of prosperity?
- What is the difference between a prosperous and a fulfilling life?
This next video, introduced by your presenters Matt and Sheonagh, will give you an insight into the work MAF helps facilitate for three different organisations in the refugee camps in Uganda.
The World Bank states that ‘For almost 25 years, extreme poverty was steadily declining. However, global extreme poverty rose in 2020 for the first time in over 20 years as the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic compounded the forces of conflict and climate change, which were already slowing poverty reduction progress.’
- When you read statements like those above, what effect does this have on your view of the Church’s responsibility to bring positive change?
- What is God’s heart for the nations when it comes to the concept of prosperity?
Read John 10:10 and Matthew 25:36-40 below.
‘The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’ John 10:10 (NKJV)
‘I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”’ Matthew 25:36-40 (NKJV)
Consider how these two portions of Scripture relate to each other and our role in partnering with God to see others enter into an abundant life.
Take some time to seek God about what prosperity means for you personally.
Pray that the United Nations’ aim for the world, that ‘all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives’, is something that can be achieved in our lifetime.
Pray that, as Christians, we can bear witness to what it means for our souls to ‘prosper’ through a relationship with Jesus. Pray too that, when showing people the love of Christ, ‘prosperity’ isn’t just something that considers physical needs, but includes the spiritual as well.
Pray for the work going on throughout the developing world which MAF assists and enables. Work that strives to see remote and isolated people prosper where they are — giving them access to life’s essentials.
Pray for those who have lost everything through conflict or natural disaster and have been displaced. May they receive access to the resources needed to rebuild their lives in safety and harmony.
Think about the people you know personally — or those within your local community — who are struggling to prosper or are living with the effects of physical or spiritual poverty.
- How can you help improve your neighbours’ lives and circumstances?
- Is there something practical you can do?
- Can you intercede for them by bringing their needs before God?
We have lots of other examples of how MAF helps to advance the Sustainable Development Agenda through our work and ministry, and through partnership with other organisations seeking to reach the most isolated communities on earth.
If you would like to continue your journey in this session of the Bible Study and want to find out more, then please click the link below for access to more inspiring stories and videos.